Suzanne Pleshette

Actress, Home furnishings designer
Known for her quick-wit and air of urban sophistication, actress Suzanne Pleshette enjoyed more than four decades in entertainment, appearing in over 30 films, starring in four sitcoms, and earning four Emmy ... Read more »
Born: 01/30/1937 in New York City, New York, USA

Filmography

Actor (74)

TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV 2004 - 2005 (TV Show)

Actor

The Last Mogul 2005 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

8 Simple Rules 2003 (Tv Show)

Actor

Good Morning, Miami 2002 - 2003 (Tv Show)

Actor

NBC's Funniest Out-Takes #2 2002 - 2003 (TV Show)

Actor

Spirited Away 2002 (Movie)

of Yubaba/Zeniba (English language) (Voice)

Will & Grace 2002 (Tv Show)

Actor

Bob Newhart: The Last Sane Man 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's 1998 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Steve McQueen: King of Cool 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride 1998 (Movie)

of Zira (Voice)

Where Are They Now? 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The Boys Are Back 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Profiles 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The Bob Newhart 20th 19th Anniversary Special 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Relatively Speaking 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Memories Then & Now 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Bridges to Cross 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

For Love or Money 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

One Cooks, the Other Doesn't 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)

Actor

Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)

Actor

Fantasies 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

The Star Maker 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Flesh and Blood 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Actor

Oh, God! Book II 1980 (Movie)

Paula (Actor)

Hot Stuff 1979 (Movie)

Louise Webster (Actor)

The Bob Newhart Show 1972 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Law and Order 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Actor

The Shaggy D.A. 1976 (Movie)

Betty Daniels (Actor)

Mitzi: A Tribute to the American Housewife 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

The F.B.I. 1965 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

In Broad Daylight 1971 - 1972 (TV Show)

Actor

River of Gold 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

Support Your Local Gunfighter 1971 (Movie)

Patience Barton (Actor)

Along Came a Spider 1969 - 1970 (TV Show)

Actor

Hunters Are For Killing 1969 - 1970 (TV Show)

Actor

Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? 1970 (Movie)

Ramona (Actor)

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium 1969 (Movie)

Samantha Perkins (Actor)

Flesh and Blood 1967 - 1968 (TV Show)

Actor

How to Make It 1968 (Movie)

Diane Reed (Actor)

Mister Buddwing 1966 (Movie)

Fiddle Corwin (Actor)

The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin 1966 (Movie)

Arabella Flagg (Actor)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1955 - 1965 (TV Show)

Actor

Nevada Smith 1965 (Movie)

Pilar (Actor)

The Ugly Dachsund 1965 (Movie)

Fran Garrison (Actor)

A Rage to Live 1964 (Movie)

Grace Caldwell (Actor)

Fate Is the Hunter 1964 (Movie)

Martha Webster (Actor)

40 Pounds of Trouble 1963 (Movie)

Chris Lockwood (Actor)

A Distant Trumpet 1963 (Movie)

Kitty (Actor)

The Birds 1963 (Movie)

Annie Hayworth (Actor)

The Dick Powell Show 1961 - 1963 (TV Show)

Actor

Youngblood Hawke 1963 (Movie)

Jeanne Greene (Actor)

The General Electric Theater 1952 - 1962 (TV Show)

Actor

Rome Adventure 1961 (Movie)

Prudence Bell (Actor)

The Geisha Boy 1958 (Movie)

Private Betty Pearson (Actor)

A Stranger Waits (TV Show)

Actor

A Twist of the Knife (TV Show)

Actor

Alone in the Neon Jungle (TV Show)

Actor

Battling For Baby (TV Show)

Actor

Blackbeard's Ghost (Movie)

Jo Anne (Actor)

Dixie: Changing Habits (TV Show)

Actor

Help Wanted: Male (TV Show)

Actor

If Things Were Different (TV Show)

Actor

Kojak: The Belarus File (TV Show)

Actor

Nightingales (TV Show)

Actor

River of Gold (Movie)

(Actor)

The Legend of Valentino (TV Show)

Actor

The Power (Movie)

Margery Lansing (Actor)

Wings of Fire (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

Known for her quick-wit and air of urban sophistication, actress Suzanne Pleshette enjoyed more than four decades in entertainment, appearing in over 30 films, starring in four sitcoms, and earning four Emmy nominations. She was best known for her portrayal of the wisecracking modern wife opposite straight man Bob Newhart in the acclaimed sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show" (CBS, 1972-78), but had earned prior accolades as a feisty and glamorous ingénue on Broadway. An early career of madcap comedies, forgettable features, and dozens of TV spots generally failed to showcase Pleshette's studied dramatic chops or her racy, off-the cuff-humor, but she was at her best in the improvisational, bantering atmosphere of the many talk and game shows of the 1960s into the 1970s. Sadly, it was an era that had not yet figured out what to do with women who were not interested in careers as pinups or suburban TV moms, proving Pleshette was ahead of her time.

Suzanne Pleshette was born on Jan. 31, 1937, and raised in New York City, NY where she was exposed to the entertainment business at an early age by her parents, Geraldine and Eugene. Her mother had been a professional dancer whom Pleshette fondly remembered as a very funny, glamorous redhead, while her father managed local live entertainment venues, including the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, which he helped transform into a hotspot for fledgling rock n' roll during the 1950s. Pleshette began taking classes with renowned acting coach Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where she was cast in a production of the postwar drama "Truckline Café" at the age of just 10 years old. She went on to attend the High School of the Performing Arts, but after a short and unsatisfying stint at Syracuse University, she returned to New York City and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. In 1957, she landed a job as a Broadway understudy and the following year found herself promoted to cast member of "Compulsion." Legend had it that Pleshette's charming, sprightly performance in the show came to the attention of Jerry Lewis' camp, which was how she landed her big screen debut in his madcap comedy, "The Geisha Boy" (1958).

Pleshette maintained a solid run on Broadway, appearing in "The Cold Wind and Warm" alongside Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach, the comedy "The Golden Fleecing," and taking the lead as Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker" when Anne Bancroft vacated the role. She also began to appear on the small screen with guest spots on anthology dramas like "General Electric Theater." She earned her first Emmy nomination for portraying a drug-addicted nurse on a 1961 episode of "Dr. Kildare," before a big screen role opposite then teen heartthrob Troy Donahue in the fluffy "Rome Adventure" brought considerable attention to Pleshette's unique sparkle. Her performance won over her co-star and the two had a brief marriage shortly after the film's release.

Following a recurring role as a co-ed on the ABC series "Channing" (1963-64), Pleshette stayed busy with feature films that were largely unworthy of her considerable talents. Her role as a local schoolteacher in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963) was certainly memorable and "Nevada Smith" (1966), co-starring Steve McQueen was compelling enough, but Pleshette generally was not tapped for the kinds of parts that created big screen stardom.

A shift to comedy was a new showcase for the actress who was known for her raspy-voiced quick wit and bawdy nature. She had a good time in silly but amusing Disney farces like "The Ugly Dachshund" (1966), "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin" (1967) and "Blackbeard's Ghost" (1968), and starred as a button-up Yank looking for adventure in the classic madcap comedy "If It's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium" (1969). In the late '60s and early '70s, her facility with off-the-cuff one liners and racy humor made Pleshette an in-demand guest on TV talk and variety shows, and she even spiced up "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ) as guest host.

Producers looking to cast a suitably wry and modern wife for stand-up comedian Bob Newhart's new sitcom knew she would be the perfect Emily Hartley. Undoubtedly the most recognizable role of Pleshette's career, it truly showcased her talents and sophisticated appeal as the school teacher wife of a slightly off-balance psychologist. The pair represented a new type of TV family - a professional couple with no kids who lived in a Chicago high-rise apartment and were frequently seen lounging in their king size bed. Pleshette earned two Emmy nominations for her run on the highly-acclaimed show and helped usher in a new image of the sitcom wife with her portrayal of a modern working woman who was smart, independent and enjoyed a healthy relationship with her devoted but slightly quirky husband.

During the "Newhart" years the actress was continually tapped for her comic prowess, appearing on talk shows and "Hollywood Squares," where she flexed her quick wit and sarcasm with memorable results. She also returned to the Disney fold with a lead in "The Shaggy D.A." (1976) - a years-later sequel to "The Shaggy Dog" - and another fold, of sorts, as the designer of a line of bed linens called Bedside Manor. After "Newhart" wrapped, Pleshette was seen on the big screen in "Oh God, Book II" (1980) and made several attempts at continued sitcom success with the short-lived series "Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs" (CBS, 1984) and "Bridges to Cross" (CBS, 1986) - both of which she helped to co-create - as well as "Nightingales" (NBC, 1989).

Of her numerous TV films, her most memorable role of that era was her Emmy-nominated turn as "Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean" (CBS, 1990), in which she portrayed the tyrannical billionaire mogul with startling iciness and arrogance. That same year, she got back into the Hartley's bed one last time for one of the most talked-about TV series finales in history. For the last episode of Newhart's second hit comedy, "Newhart" (CBS, 1982-1990), Newhart woke up beside Pleshette on the set of their old show and told her of a strange dream where he was an innkeeper in New England, suggesting that the entire show had been but a dream of his previous character.

Pleshette returned to the regular TV lineup in 1994, starring opposite Hal Linden as a couple whose older children move back in with them in the short-lived "The Boys Are Back" (CBS, 1994-95). She remained active in TV movies, and in 1998, lent her recognizable voice to the character of Zira in Disney's animated "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride." In 2001, she provided the voices of Yubaba and Zeniba in the English adaptation of the Japanese animated film "Spirited Away" (2001), but also made headlines for marrying actor Tom Poston. Poston had been a regular on "Newhart" - the second incarnation of Bob's career - and an occasional guest on "The Bob Newhart Show." The pair had dated nearly four decades earlier in New York before Pleshette married an oil executive, to whom she remained married until his death in 2000.

Pleshette was wo d back to television in 2002 by the producers of the hit sitcom "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and guested as the long-lost barkeeper mother of Karen Walker (Megan Mullally). Producers were won over by her performance and cast her in their subsequent series "Good Morning, Miami" (NBC, 2002-2004) as Claire Arnold - the randy, outspoken TV station owner and grandmother to lead character Jake (Mark Feuerstein).

Pleshette stepped into the recurring role of Katey Sagal's mother Laura on the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules..." (ABC, 2002-05) following the death of series lead John Ritter; a role which reunited Pleshette with James Garner, with whom she had co-starred in the comedy "Support Your Local Gunfighter" (1970). In the summer of 2006, Pleshette announced that she was being treated for lung cancer. She appeared to be recovering successfully, though the following spring, her husband Poston died from respiratory failure, and later in the year she barely survived pneumonia. Sadly, only a year after her husband died, Pleshette lost her battle against cancer, with the beloved actress passing away at age 70 from respiratory failure.

Relationships

Troy Donahue Actor

Husband
Co-starred in "Rome Adventure" (1962)

Thomas Gallagher

Husband
Married March 16, 1968 until his death from lung cancer Jan. 21, 2000

John Pleshette Actor

Cousin
Played Richard Avery on the CBS series, "Knots Landing"

Eugene Pleshette

Father
Vice president and general manager of Paramount Theater in New York City helped turn the Brooklyn Paramount into a showcase for rock'n'roll shows in the 1950s later joined ABC-TV as vice president and developed a new marketing format for TV shows became vice president of Don Reid Productions moved to California in 1974 to become managing director of the Shubert Theater in Century City died in September 1991 in his mid-70s

Geraldine Pleshette

Mother
Performed under stage name Geraldine Rivers

Tom Poston Actor

Husband
Married May 11, 2001 until his death from respiratory failure April 2007

EDUCATION

Syracuse University

Syracuse , New York

The Neigborhood Playhouse

New York , New York

The School of Performing Arts

New York , New York

Milestones

2004

Guest-starred in several episodes of "Will and Grace" (NBC) as Karen Walker's (Megan Mullally) estranged mother

2003

Appeared in the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules" after John Ritter's death as the mother of Katey Sagal's character

1997

Hosted the CBS special "Where Are They Now?"

1994

Starred in the role of Jackie Hansen opposite Hal Linden on the short-lived CBS sitcom, "The Boys Are Back"

1990

Reprised role of Emily Hartley on the last episode of Bob Newhart's later sitcom, "Newhart"; scene written and played to suggest that the entire series had been a dream of Newhart's earlier character, Dr. Robert Hartley

1990

Starred on TV as "Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean"; received fourth Emmy nomination

1989

Played Chris Broderick on the short-lived NBC medical drama, "Nightingales"

1986

Played reporter Tracy Bridges on the short-lived CBS drama series, "Bridges to Cross"

1984

Played (also co-created) newspaperwoman Maggie Briggs on the short-lived CBS sitcom, "Suzanne Pleshette is Maggie Briggs"; directed by "Newhart" co-star Peter Bonerz

1982

Returned to Broadway in "Special Occasions"; closed after one performance

1980

Last feature film credit to date, "Oh God, Book II"

1979

Acted in first TV miniseries, "Flesh and Blood" (CBS)

1976

Returned to feature films to play the female lead in "The Shaggy D.A."; her final Disney feature to date

1972

Played Emily Hartley on the long-running CBS sitcom, "The Bob Newhart Show"; received two Emmy nominations for the role

1970

Last feature film for five years, "Support Your Local Gunfighter" co-starring James Garner

1967

First TV-movie, "Wings of Fire" (NBC)

1966

Acted in the first of four features produced by Disney Studios, "The Ugly Dachsund"

1963

Played college student Lori Moore on the ABC drama series, "Channing"

1963

Was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in "The Birds"

1963

First received top billing in a feature in the drama, "Wall of Noise"

1962

Returned to features after four years to play her first leading roles in "Rome Adventure" and "40 Pounds of Trouble"

1961

Garnered first Emmy nomination for playing a drug addicted nurse on an episode of "Dr. Kildare" (NBC)

1959

Replaced Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker" on Broadway

1958

Made film debut in the Jerry Lewis comedy, "The Geisha Boy"

1957

Made Broadway debut in "Compulsion"

Earliest TV appearances, "The General Electric Theater" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"

Made stage debut in "Truckline Cafe"

Worked for a time as a designer of bed linens and home furnishings

Bonus Trivia

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Pleshette was the first and only female non-singing, non-comic guest host of NBC's "The Tonight Show".

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On Aug. 11, 2006, Pleshette's agent announced that she was being treated for lung cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Pleshette received chemotherapy as an outpatient

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